Safe Walk sits and waits for takers

By Ari Ofsevit

Laura Kerr ƒ?TM07 packs up her bag, walks out her door and heads to campus on foot with her laptop. A few steps along she realizes she has to stay on campus until after 10 p.m and instead walks to her car and drives. She considers using Macalesterƒ?TMs Safe Walk program, which provides students with a two-person escort service, but decides against it.ƒ?oeI have a very tight time schedule and donƒ?TMt know if they could accommodate,ƒ?? she said.

Macalester may seem like a sheltered community, but certain incidents, like the recent robberies near campus, remind students that they live in an urban environment. While the robberies may have caused students to think twice before they walk home late at night, Safe Walk remains under-utilized.

Safe Walkƒ?TMs services extend to a mile off campusƒ?”an area from Cleveland to Lexington Aves. and University to Randolph Aves. From 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on week nights, 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, a pair of students sit in the campus center, waiting for calls that rarely, if ever, come.

Safe Walk has received about ten calls per semester, less than one per week, Tara Stormoen-Martinez, the assistant director of campus programs, said. Including a walk on Monday night, there have been eight so far this semester.

ƒ?oePeople realize ƒ?oh, we are in an urban setting, maybe I should use the buddy systemƒ?”it is available,ƒ?TMƒ?? Stormoen-Martinez said. ƒ?oeThere is kind of the notion that we are kind of protected in the Macalester bubble.ƒ??

Stormoen-Martinez added that she doesnƒ?TMt normally consider using the service, which is also available to faculty and staff, even though it is located next to her office.

Rachel Tenney ƒ?TM06, the student supervisor for the Safe Walk program, said she has noticed a rise in the number of people using the service since the muggings.

ƒ?oe[There is] always an increase after this sort of thing,ƒ??she said, adding that the program will try to do more publicity this semester.

During Safe Walkƒ?TMs hours, two studentsƒ?”always one male and one femaleƒ?”sit in the Student Organization Resource Center (SORC) on the second floor of the campus center. During down time, they help with organizational and promotional activities and materials for campus programs.

When the Safe Walk phone (x6699) rings, the walkers on duty spring to action, donning blue wind-breakers and bright orange, reflective vests. They meet people anywhere in the four square mile area, although most trips originate on campus and end farther away. In case of inclement weather, a van is available, but not all walkers are certified to drive the vans so they cannot always be used.

While few students use the service, most students know that Safe Walk exists. Many, however, are fuzzy on the details.

Others find the hours too early.

ƒ?oeIf it was later I would use it, like if I am walking home from the link at 4 a.m.,ƒ?? Katie Ashton ƒ?TM06 said. ƒ?oeIƒ?TMd use it at times when there was absolutely no one around.ƒ??

ƒ?oePeople are afraid to use it because they feel like they are going to bother us, which is not the case. We need stuff to do or we sit up here and do nothing,ƒ?? Ryan Palmer ƒ?TM08 a Safe Walk employee, said.

Some students have other ways to circumvent the lonely walk home.

ƒ?oeI like taking my bike,ƒ?? Roscoe Sopiwnik ƒ?TM06 said. ƒ?oeThere are no problems when you are flying along. I just go to bed at 9:30, it kind of solves the whole problem.ƒ??